Monterey debates future of Alvarado, starting with Mucky Duck.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
The sizzling sounds of Jake Nielsen’s blues guitar give Monterey’s Alvarado Street an electric charge on a recent Friday night. The Watsonville musician is a fixture of the outdoor live music scene at the newly revitalized Mucky Duck.
Alex and Anthony Buich, who took over the once-troubled downtown spot last June, say outdoor entertainment has brought in business, especially since the city Planning Commission relaxed restrictions on patio use and hours of operation in October.
But the looser rules didn’t resonate with City Manager Fred Meurer. He appealed the decision Nov. 4, writing, “The Planning Commission compromised the city’s efforts to improve the character of the downtown.”
Noise and safety concerns, particularly the shooting outside the bar that wounded three people last New Year’s Day, loomed large in his argument.
The Duck had become a magnet for drunken brawls well before the shooting, logging 122 police incident reports between Jan. 1, 2010 and Jan. 13, 2011. Another Alvarado business, the Hippodrome nightclub, shut down in November after the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control suspended its liquor license.
Numerous community members, including Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce President Jody Hansen, spoke in support of the Buich brothers when the Mucky Duck appeal went before the City Council Dec. 6. But the council voted 4-1 to restrict patio hours and events, and cut off alcohol sales at midnight instead of 1:30am, as Meurer suggested.
Mayor Chuck Della Sala dissented, arguing the restrictions didn’t go far enough. “We need to look long-term on this,” he said.
Accordingly, officials want to use the Mucky Duck’s scaled-back operations as the baseline for bars and clubs citywide.
Senior Planner Kim Cole says her staff will begin work next month on ordinances that could restrict alcohol sales and outdoor amplified live entertainment everywhere from Calle Principal to Cannery Row.
“Everything’s on the table,” she says.
Cole’s also finishing work on a glossy manual on the city’s long-term vision for downtown. She’ll present it to the Planning Commission Jan. 10.
The Buiches are concerned that vision clashes with theirs.
“If you want to revitalize downtown, you don’t take away energetic nightlife,” Anthony says. “Curfews for downtown will be a death sentence for us.”
Downtown developers and property owners see it differently.
“Volume from live outdoor music is problematic when we’re trying to bring people into the downtown to live,” says Jerry Anderson, property manager for the building next to the Mucky Duck.
The city’s downtown plan is anchored by mixed-use developments aimed at increasing the number of people living there. Anderson, along with Meurer and downtown developer Doug Wiele, worry investors and potential residents will balk at bands playing a few feet from their windows.
Fans of live local music, however, applaud the Duck’s focus on outdoor concerts.
“One of the things that drew me to Monterey was the vibrant local music scene,” says 50-year-old Jeff Rothal, a longtime resident who works near downtown.
Sarah Nelson, 31, feels the city’s downtown vision ignores the large student population in its midst. “Keep our generation in mind,” she said at the Dec. 6 council meeting.
Anderson, meanwhile, is stumped on how to make downtown a destination for everyone.
“We’ve worked on it,” he says, “and we’ve come up short.”